Under the leadership of Prime Minister Stephen J. Harper, who is to visit Israel
in nine days, Canada has emerged as Israel’s staunchest ally in the
Yet many observers dismiss Canada as a bit player on the
international scene, and write off the relevance of its interventions on behalf
They couldn’t be more wrong.
The record shows that
Canada’s support for Israel is comprehensive, concrete and weighty. It is
frequently a step ahead of the rest of the world, setting a principled,
pro-Israel precedent and example. It is of significant, often critical,
The senior-most political and diplomatic officials in
Jerusalem deeply respect and appreciate Canada’s backing.
They hold Prime
Minister Harper in the highest regard.
Canada was the first country in
the world to immediately suspend direct aid to the Palestinian Authority when
Hamas was elected in 2006, because of that terrorist organizations’ refusal to
meet the criteria for international legitimacy: an end to violence,
unconditional recognition of Israel, and acceptance of previous
Prime Minister Harper said: “If institutions committed to
terrorism are playing a role in the Palestinian state… that is an indication to
me that the road to [Palestinian] democracy has not been traveled very
Democracy and the continued advocacy of terrorism are fundamentally
Canada’s position was quickly adopted by the US
and the EU.
Canada was the first country in the world to withdraw its
support from the second UN World Conference Against Racism, known as Durban
Noting the anti-Semitic and anti-Israel hate-fest into which the
original Durban conference degenerated, the government of Canada led the boycott
of the 2009 meeting, and was one of only 15 countries to boycott the Durban III
summit in 2011.
Again, other Western allies followed Canada’s
Canada was the first country in the world to robustly defend
Israel’s operation against Hezbollah, early during the 2006 Second Lebanon War.
Harper said that “responsibility for the escalating violence in the Middle East
rests entirely with those who have kidnapped Israeli soldiers. Israel has the
right to defend itself.” When many countries urged restraint on Israel, Harper
said “the onus to end this escalation is on the other side, and I would urge
them to return the prisoners.”
When other countries accused Israel of
over-reacting and using disproportionate force, Harper said, “I think Israel’s
response under the circumstances has been measured.”
In the aftermath of
the war, Prime Minister Harper opposed a one-sided statement at the Francophonie
summit that sought to deplore the war and recognize the victims of
Harper insisted that the resolution recognize losses on both
Canada’s steadfast position ultimately won the support of the
other Francophonie members and led to a balanced consensus
During Operation Cast Lead in 2009, Canada likewise stood by
Israel against Hamas aggression from Gaza.
Then-foreign minister Lawrence
Cannon stated: “Israel has a clear right to defend itself against the continued
rocket attacks by Palestinian militant groups which have deliberately targeted
civilians. First and foremost, those rocket attacks must stop.”
G-8 summit in 2011, Prime Minister Harper blocked American draft language that
specified Israel’s pre-1967 borders as the starting point for peace talks,
because this ignored other key negotiating framework factors such as recognition
of Israel as a Jewish state and demilitarization of a Palestinian state. Harper
stood up to pressure from US President Barack Obama and then-French president
In the end, G-8 leaders conceded the merit of Stephen
Harper’s position, and issued a balanced statement urging Israel and the
Palestinians to resume negotiations (with no mention of the ’67
During Operation Pillar of Defense in 2012, Canada vigorously
supported Israel’s right to defend its citizens and blamed terrorists in Gaza
for the escalation in violence. Foreign Minister John Baird described Israel’s
right to self-defense in the context of the broader conflict between terrorism
and democracy: “Far too often, the Jewish people find themselves on the front
lines in the struggle against terrorism, the great struggle of our generation…
Canada condemns the terrorist group Hamas and stands with Israel as it deals
with regional threats to peace and security.”
Canada also has
consistently stood up for Israel, often as a lone voice, in the G-20, the UN
Human Rights Council (UNCHR), International Atomic Energy Agency and the UN
General Assembly. Over three years that it sat on the UNCHR in Geneva, Canada
stood alone in defense of Israel – eight times casting the only “no” vote
against unfair condemnations of Israel. Also in Geneva, Canada played a critical
role in getting Israel membership for the first time in the UN’s Western
European and Others Group, a status that Israel has sought for years.
November 2012, Foreign Minister Baird personally cast Canada’s vote against
General Assembly recognition of Palestinian statehood. Canada was among only
nine countries that voted against this resolution, making the case that it
undermined direct Israeli- Palestinian negotiations as the basis of Middle East
peace. Baird said: “We took a principled stand. We believe that statehood is a
product of peace with Israel, and the Palestinian Authority is trying to go
around Israel to the UN to get what they couldn’t get at the negotiating
Prime Minister Harper’s government has taken a lead role at the
IAEA in Vienna and other international forums in opposing the Iranian drive for
nuclear weaponry, and in backing sanctions against Iran. In 2012, Canada
suspended diplomatic relations with Iran by closing its embassy in Tehran and
expelling all Iranian diplomats from Ottawa. It also outlawed Iran’s Islamic
Revolutionary Guards Corps Quds Force under Canada’s Anti-Terrorism Act. Canada
expanded its sanctions in 2013 by announcing a prohibition on all imports and
exports from Iran, and by banning a series of Iranians and Iranian entities
under the Special Economic Measures Act.
Canadian resoluteness in
opposing Iran has drawn in other Western countries. Many joined the walk-out
boycotts that Canada annually led of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s speeches at the UN.
Almost all Western nations have supported the tough General Assembly resolution
on Iran’s horrendous human rights record that Canada sponsors every
Canada also led the world in expressing deep skepticism of the
November interim agreement in Geneva between the P5+1 and Iran.
time, John Baird said: “Today’s deal cannot be abused or undermined by
deception. The Iranian people deserve the freedom and prosperity that they have
been denied for too long by the regime’s nuclear ambitions.
Canadian sanctions will remain tough, and in full force...
evaluate today’s deal not just on the merits of its words, but more importantly
on its verifiable implementation and unfettered access of all Iranian nuclear
Since then, world leaders have been forced to acknowledge
the validity of Canada’s doubt about Iran’s compliance intentions and the
soundness of Canada’s concern about premature withdrawal of sanctions. Some have
accepted Canada’s contention that the scope of the talks must be broadened to
include Iran’s sponsorship of terrorism and its systemic violation of human
Sometimes, nations lead by simply demonstrating friendship.
Again, Canada is the example par excellence.
Twenty ministers in the
Harper governments (since 2006) have visited Israel to advance bilateral ties,
including the ministers of agriculture, citizenship and immigration, defense,
environment, finance, foreign affairs, industry, international trade, natural
resources, public safety, public works, transport and treasury.
furthermore important to note that Prime Minister Harper’s government has
significantly enhanced defense, intelligence and law enforcement ties between
Canada and Israel.
Cooperation accords have been signed in sensitive
areas, and there have been frequent high-level exchanges, including reciprocal
visits by the defense ministers, military chiefs of staff, intelligence chiefs
and national security advisers of the two countries. Observers should not
underestimate the quiet professionalism and outsized reach of Canada’s security
personnel across the Middle East and around the world.
Speaking to the
Herzliya Conference in January 2012, Foreign Minister Baird forthrightly said
that “Israel has no better friend in the world than Canada; no stronger ally who
will stand up for you. We won’t stand behind you; we will stand shoulder to
shoulder with Israel. Canada will not remain silent while the Jewish state is
attacked for defending its territory or people.”
No country in the world
is as generous in its trailblazing support of Israel, without apologies or
Canada speaks out and acts to defend Israel, consistently
before anybody else, without feeling the need to be “politically correct” and to
“balance” its statements with (im)moral ambiguities about the Arab-Israeli
Prime Minister Harper and his team should be warmly welcomed in
Jerusalem this month as super-valuable allies and trusted friends.